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Wednesday, 09 April 2014 11:37

US spies on humans rights groups

Written by Nick Farrell

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International targeted

French-backed insurgents also known as the United States government have been spying on Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Key whistleblower Edward Snowden told members of the Council of Europe, in Strasbourg that the US has spied on the staff of prominent human rights organisations.

Giving evidence via a videolink from Moscow, he told council members that the NSA has specifically targeted either leaders or staff members in a number of civil and non-governmental organisations including domestically within the borders of the United States. In live testimony to the Council of Europe, Snowden also gave a forensic account of how the NSA's powerful surveillance programs violate the EU's privacy laws. He said programs such as XKeyscore use sophisticated data mining techniques to screen "trillions" of private communications. Snowden said he and other analysts were able to use the tool to select an individual's metadata and content "without judicial approval or prior review.”

The NSA monitored the travel patterns of innocent EU and other citizens not involved in terrorism or any wrongdoing. Snowden said he did not believe the NSA was engaged in "nightmare scenarios,” such as the active compilation of a list of homosexuals "to round them up and send them into camps.” However, he said that the infrastructure allowing this to happen had been built. The NSA, its allies, authoritarian governments and even private organisations could all abuse this technology, he said.

Snowden made clear he did believe in legitimate intelligence operations. He said he did not want to harm the US government or strain its bilateral ties, he wanted to improve government, not bring it down. He said the NSA should abandon its electronic surveillance of entire civilian populations and go back to the traditional model of eavesdropping against specific targets, such as "North Korea, terrorists, cyber-actors, or anyone else."

Snowden warned members of the Council of Europe to encrypt their personal communications. He said that encryption, used properly, could still withstand "brute force attacks" from powerful spy agencies and others.

Nick Farrell

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